Skip to main content

Euclid dark matter telescope arrives at its destination orbit

The European Space Agency (ESA)’s Euclid space telescope has arrived at its orbit around the sun. Launched from Cape Canaveral on July 1, the telescope is now in at orbit around the sun at the L2 Lagrange point, where it joins other space telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Gaia space telescope.

Webb and Gaia welcome Euclid to L2

The video above shows how Euclid will join the other space telescopes and how their orbits relate to each other. Located around 1 million miles from Earth, this complex-looking orbit is often used for space telescopes because of its high level of stability. Maintaining the orbit requires only a small amount of fuel, which is a limited resource for space missions, and it also allows the telescopes to stay on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. This means that the telescopes can face away from both the Earth and the sun, avoiding heat and light interference from these two sources.

This is important for missions like Webb as it avoids heat buildup because Webb needs to maintain a very cool operating temperature for its observations in the infrared. Whereas Euclid needs to have a very stable orbit, with no wobbles to introduce interference into its highly detailed observations of distant parts of the universe.

Euclid will be observing distant galaxies to build up a 3D map of all the dark matter in the universe. By determining its location by looking at its gravitational effects, scientists hope to learn more about the nature of dark matter.

Even though Euclid shares the L2 orbit with other space telescopes, there is plenty of room for all of them without risk of a collision. “The region around L2 is big and even though the orbits of these spacecraft seem to cross in the animation, in reality there is plenty of space and a collision can be easily avoided,” ESA writes. “For example, Webb and Gaia are between 400,000 and 1,100,000 km [250,000 and 700,000 miles] apart, depending on where they are in their respective orbits.”

With Euclid now at its destination, the next step of the mission is the commissioning phase in which the instruments are prepared for operations. This will take around three months, then the telescope can begin its science operations.

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
See the incredible first images taken by the dark matter-hunting Euclid telescope
Euclid’s Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) instrument is dedicated to measuring the amount of light that galaxies emit at each wavelength. It will image the sky in infrared light (900–2000 nm) to measuring the brightness and intensity of light. This image was taken during commissioning of Euclid to check that the focused instrument worked as expected. This is a raw image taken using NISP’s ‘Y’ filter. Because it is largely unprocessed, some unwanted artefacts remain – for example the cosmic rays that shoot straight across, seen especially in the VIS image. The Euclid Consortium will ultimately turn the longer-exposed survey observations into science-ready images that are artefact-free, more detailed, and razor sharp.

The recently-launched Euclid space telescope just took some of its first images, and the European Space Agency (ESA) has shared them to give a taste of what is to come from this dark matter investigation tool.

Even though they are only preliminary test images, they still give a stunning view of distant galaxies and show what Euclid will be able to produce once it begins its science operations in a few months' time. The aim of the mission is to learn about dark matter and dark energy by creating a 3D map of the dark matter in the universe.

Read more
Researchers want to use gravitational waves to learn about dark matter
Artist's conception shows two merging black holes similar to those detected by LIGO.

When two sufficiently massive objects collide -- such as when two black holes merge -- the forces can actually bend space-time, creating ripples called gravitational waves. These gravitational waves can be detected even from millions of light-years away, making them a way to learn about distant, dramatic events in far-off parts of the universe. And now, a team of astronomers has come up with a method for using gravitational waves to study the mysterious phenomenon of dark matter.

The idea of the research was to create different computer models of what gravitational waves from black hole mergers would look like in universes with different types of dark matter. By comparing the models to what is seen in the real world, we can learn more about what type of dark matter is most likely.

Read more
Euclid mission launches to probe the mysteries of dark matter
This artist’s concept shows the ESA (European Space Agency) Euclid mission in space.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched its Euclid space telescope to study the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. The spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with liftoff at 11:12 a.m. ET (8:12 a.m. PT).

This artist’s concept shows the ESA (European Space Agency) Euclid mission in space. ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Read more